In one ancient world, there was a region where strange majicks and demihuman races thrived. The “Vanished Lands” were blessed by the gods and cursed by prophecy. Travelers became adventurers, and adventurers strove to be heroes in the face of many perils and wonders.
Various groups of mercenaries and diplomats have fought humanoids in the northwestern borderlands, encountered pirates on the Sea of Nagendwa, and wandered the hostile Halmed Desert and the wide Plains of Sathendo….
“Vistel’s Circus,” Player Character Party 39, using the Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game, as of spring 2013:
- “Hamfast Hammerfist” [Brian W.]-male Zeda human Fighter, mountaineer, “barbarian” strongman, and laborer; TNg, Lvl. 2
- “Scully Strongbow” [Sara F.]-female albino Gnoll (Flind) Ranger, archer, knife thrower, and scout, with owl “Owlicious”; NGl, Lvl. 2
- “Corwin Windsong” [Bruce K.]-male Half-Elf Bard, runaway aristocrat, ladies’ man, and ringmaster with a mandolin; CNg, Lvl. 2
- “Elsa Fairbottom” [Rich C.G.]-female Hill Dwarf Druid outcast, cook/brewer, and animal handler with owlbear cub “Oswald”; NGc, Lvl. 2
- “Giacomo ‘the Mysterious’ Du Vane” [Beruk A./absent]-male Hifalendorin human Mage (Gypsy Wizard) and stage seer, embittered by experiences in Hesolin’s Magisterium; NGc, Lvl. 2
- “Tempestade” [Josh C./absent]-male Barbari human Monk (Battledancer/capoeirista from outside the “Vanished Lands”), roustabout; CGl, Lvl. 2
- “Radius” [Jason E.R./absent]-male Modron Paladin of Primus, lord of Nirvana; exiled to the Prime Material plane; LGn, Lvl. 1
“22 to 25 February 1228 B.C.E.:” After cleansing a farm near Tensar of Undead, Vistel’s Circus rode toward the Saganim (proto-Celtic) human village of Nobb. On the way through some woods, the wagon train was ambushed by Bugbear bandits, but they were quickly vanquished.
As the caravan arrives at Nobb, circus founder Orlando Vistel sends Corwin, Hamfast, Scully, and Elsa to check out the local inn. They enter the smoky common room of the “High Hedge” pub, but the Saganim peasants are alarmed to see Gnoll Scully.
Corwin vouches for his companion, and the Bard buys a round of drinks and sings, allaying their concerns. Scully, Hamfast, and Elsa get a table and order dinner, while Corwin reserves a room with innkeeper Darrin.
A young man named Caleb introduces himself to Elsa and has many questions for the Dwarf Druid, especially about her trained owlbear cub “Oswald.” Caleb is apprentice to “Pita ‘Old Pete’ Arborson” [Dan A./Non-Player Character], a Barbari human Ollave. They also travel with Skald “Melody” [Lori K.S./N.P.C.] and Grugach (Wild Elf) scout Ivy.
Caledil Longbark, a Sylvan Elf trapper, catches Corwin’s eye, but Corwin is curious about Caleb’s group. Hamfast tersely defends the honor of the Zeda kingdom of the Dwarves and Gnomes, since that’s also his homeland, but the Saganim woodsmen and Elves mean no offense to the tall human.
Ol’ Pete asks whether the circus has news from the east. He has heard rumors of hostile Centaurs, evil Druids, and incursions by monsters from the nefarious kingdom of Zuromm. The newcomers haven’t heard of any of these, but are interested in them as well as in possible corruption in the court of King Edmund II.
Corwin asks Ol’ Pete if he could guide the circus toward Thadenis, capital of Saganim. Elsa pays the Ollave 30 crowns (gold pieces), and he recommends heading to the village of Baln rather than taking a northern road across the open Plains of Sathendo.
The next morning, Ol’ Pete and his followers join Vistel’s Circus and head southwest. Giacomo rides in a cart recently acquired from the Necromancer defeated at Tensar. Scully, Ivy, and Corwin to scout ahead through the snowy woods.
Scully slips down a ravine and spots a cave opening covered by icicles. Corwin and Ivy follow, and they notice tracks. Peering into the cave mouth, they see red eyes! A warg and an armored Orc lunge forth.
Corwin draws his long sword, as Ivy shoots arrows from her bow. The wolf-like warg bites Corwin, but the Orc misses with his gladius. Scully sends her bird Owlicious to warn the others.
Back at the wagons, Ol’ Pete is leading the way around the ravine when Owlicious returns. Hamfast, Elsa, and Giacomo prepare to join their friends. Corwin manages to slay the green-skinned Orc, and white-furred Scully fells her fellow canine.
In the cave, Ivy and company find a cache of Zuromm [Roman-style] weapons, jerky of unknown origin, and silver coins with a spider on one side and an eye on the other. They also find a parchment map with a second site marked ahead on their path. The scouts rejoin the circus train and continue hiking.
Sometime later, Orlando and Ol’ Pete give Corwin, Hamfast, Scully, Elsa, and Ivy leave to check out the second site from the map. They climb a hill and see a dense ring of trees around a rocky summit. Vultures circle overhead.
Stealthy Scully and Corwin creep ahead and take out a sleeping warg. The others join them as they enter a pile of standing stones and descend a narrow, winding staircase. A tunnel leads to a vertical shaft on one side and a sloping passage on the other.
Corwin follows the passage and nearly falls into a pit trap. After resetting it, the spelunkers find a back exit near the tree line covered by a relatively thin layer of piled-up rocks.
They head back to the interior of the tor and find an ancient tomb, possibly dating back to the Saganim empire of a few centuries ago. The sarcophagus has been destroyed.
The next chamber has vaulted ceilings and skylights. It was once some sort of temple, although neither Elsa nor Corwin recognizes all the carvings. The raiders find recent bloodstains on the altar. One exit leads to the vertical shaft, and another, hidden behind the altar, leads down to a third subterranean level.
The adventurers ignore the path back to the vertical shaft, which Elsa notes would make a good quick escape route up, if it doesn’t lead down to the nameless horrors of the Underdark. The other direction leads to a mess hall, where three Orcs and a gray-skinned Dwarf are cooking venison and are surprised to have visitors.
Corwin quickly nocks arrows, and Elsa invokes Vulkan (Moradin) to cast True Strike on Scully. Ivy misses and drops her bow in favor of her sword. Hamfast engages the Duergar, as accurate Scully smashes an Orc with a mighty blow.
The two remaining Orcs snarl but miss, and the Gray Dwarf casts Darkness. Corwin swings anyway, as does Ivy. Elsa taunts the Dwarf, and Hamfist kills another Orc. Scully kills the last Orc of the Footmasher clan, and the Duergarlevitates Elsa before he is slain by Corwin.
Scully and Hamfast carry the deer on a spit out of the caves, since wise Elsa recommends leaving rather than exploring any deeper. Corwin and Elsa grab scrolls of Chill Touch and Darkness as they head back to rejoin the circus troupe….
I hope you enjoyed the action-packed dungeon crawl! Even though we’ve had more delays because of the weather, I look forward to continuing Jason’s “Barsoomian Adventures” planetary romance miniseries, as well as the ” Vortex: Terra’s Pride” telecom space opera.